J-1 visa (exchange visitors) is a non-immigrant visa issued by the United States to research scholars, professors and exchange visitors participating in programs that promote cultural exchange, especially to obtain medical or business training within the U.S. All applicants must meet eligibility criteria, English language requirements, and be sponsored either by a university, private sector or government program designated by the Department of State for sponsorship. These programs are designed to promote the interchange or persons, knowledge, and skills, in the fields of education, arts, and science Examples of exchange visitors include, but are not limited to:

Examples of exchange visitors include, but are not limited to:

Professors or scholars
Research assistants
Nannies/Au pairs
Camp counselors
To be eligible for the J-1 you must first meet the following criteria:

Have adequate financial support for all of your school and living expenses, including additional financial support for any accompanying family members, for the entire duration of your degree program as determined by normative time; AND
51% or more of your total financial support comes from an institutional or government sponsor in the form of a scholarship, fellowship, assistantship, stipend, tuition waiver, or other direct support provided specifically for the educational program. Personal, loans, or support from family or individuals do not qualify.
J1 visa looks similar to other student visa F1 but it is different in many aspects. Unlike F1 visa, for J1 visa, you must have must have substantial [51%] institutional financial support provided specifically for the educational program to obtain the initial document and to request any extensions. Again, you must show financial support for the entire length of program when requesting the initial document. A work permit from the program sponsor is required for any off campus or even for on campus employment. J2 dependent (spouse, child) can study full time or part time or even work with work authorization card.

How to get J1 visa

The first step in obtaining a J-1 visa is to obtain a Form DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status, (formerly known as an IAP-66) by the sponsoring authority. The Form DS-2019 identifies the exchange visitor and their designated sponsor and provides a brief description of the exchange visitor’s program, including the start and end date, category of exchange, and an estimate of the cost of the exchange program. After you have obtained a Form DS-2019, you may then apply for a J-1 visa through the U.S. Department of State at a U.S. embassy or consulate in your foreign country. You may not enter the United States in J-1 status more than 30 days before your program begins.


The fees are split into 3 parts. First one is Program fee which vary from sponsor to sponsor based on the exchange category, the sponsor’s program, program duration etc. The Second one is SEVIS Fee of $ 180. While issuing you form DS 2019 the sponsor will inform you whether they have already paid this fee for you or you need to pay this fee through Form SEVIS-I 901. The third one is Visa fee of $ 160.

Documents Required

Documents required depends on the sponsoring authority and type of exchange. For Consular Processing following documents are required:

Form DS-2019 (Certificate of Eligibility) issued by your program sponsor
Financial Documents
Passport valid for travel to the United States
Completed Online Form DS-160, nonimmigrant visa application
Fee receipt showing payment of the $160 visa application fee
2×2 photograph, meeting format requirements